Water kefir farming

I appreciate today’s short attention span theater, I have a lot to say about kefir. If you want the short version, scroll down, you’ll see it. ?

We have known for many generations about the health benefits of consuming probiotics. Fortunately there are many ways to get those good bacteria into our body. Our ancestors used to make their own probiotic rich foods. Things like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi (one of my favorites!), miso (another favorite), pickled foods (salt brined as apposed to vinegar preserved), sourdough starters, the list goes on and on. These were often used as a way to preserve foods before refrigeration was common. Foods would only last so long in their fresh state, we needed to introduce friendly bacteria that would prevent any unfriendly (to us) bacteria from colonizing the food. A beneficial side effect of these friendly bacteria, besides preserving the food, is they are often very good for our gut microbiome.

This is something I absolutely believe we need to get back to doing, being more self sufficient, being able to grow and preserve our own food, being able to propagate our own health products/produce, not only for our own personal use, but something that can be shared with family, friends, neighbors… as well as a potential source of income, trade or barter.

I have been successfully working with water kefir for a little less than a month now, I knew about milk kefir (a different kind, not interchangeable), it’s easy to find commercial milk kefir in the health food section of our local grocery stores, not so easy to find commercially available premade water kefir. I recently discovered water kefir, the end result of “brewing” that makes a very tasty grown up soda that is actually healthy and so easy and relatively quick to make.

I’ve heard it pronounced many different ways, but I believe the correct pronunciation is “keh-feer” , but kee-fer is another common way I’ve heard, I tend to use both.

According to Wikipedia: Tibicos, or water kefir, is a traditional fermented drink made with water and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts (SCOBY) held in a polysaccharide biofilm matrix created by the bacteria. It is sometimes consumed as an alternative to milk-based probiotic drinks or tea-cultured products such as kombucha. Water kefir is typically made as a probiotic homebrew beverage. The finished product, if bottled, will produce a carbonated beverage.

Water kefir, if taken to a second ferment will self carbonate, it will make a super fizzy drink that you can flavor any way you like. I tend to stick with easy juices I can get locally, apple cider, grape juice, a mixed juice, I go with 100% fruit juice and avoid the juice cocktails which tend to contain little to no real juice, but actually are flavored sugar/fructose water.

The process is so simple, it doesn’t require much in the way of equipment, chances are you already have what you need in your kitchen or it can easily be found locally. A few glass mason jars (1 quart or larger, preferably large mouth), a few glass bottles with good lids (for the second ferment). A strainer, a measuring cup, a funnel. You’ll need a few coffee filters or a clean cloth to cover the kefir in the jar for the first ferment. It’s best to stick with glass and plastic, metal seems to be detrimental to the kefir, it can slow it or even kill it.

It goes like this, you will need to buy or otherwise obtain some water kefir grains, I bought mine from Amazon here fresh kefir grains, you’ll need some sugar, it must be real sugar, no substitutes, no honey either, honey has antibacterial properties that will kill the kefir. You’ll need room temperature water, filtered spring water, well water, it can be tap water as long as it doesn’t have chlorine or fluoride. You can optionally add a dash of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt, brown sugar or molasses. That’s about it for the first ferment. I’ll include the full directions below.

You shouldn’t fear the sugar used in the process, it’s for the kefir grains, they need it, they consume the sugar and create probiotics, by the time you pour off the kefir water there is very little to no sugar left. One of the ways you will know your first ferment is complete is to taste the kefir water, if it’s still sweet, you need to let it go another day or so.

For the second ferment, you’ll need the kefir water from the first ferment, some fruit juice and/or sliced fruit (lemons, oranges, other citrus, bananas, ginger…) and you can also add a bit more sugar to help it ferment but that’s not necessary. When it has fermented to your liking, opening the bottle is a real treat, it will fizz like crazy, it really tastes like a special grown up soda, kids even like this. I’ve been feeding it to my hubby and my family for weeks now, everyone who has tried it asks for more.

The really wonderful thing about water kefir grains is as long as it’s happy and healthy, they will multiply and grow creating a nearly endless supply, by my third batch, I was able to divide off my kefir grains and share them with one of my friends so she could start her own water kefir farm. I just started my 5th batch and I now have 5 quart sized jars brewing with very happy, plump kefir grains. You can continue to reuse your kefir grains to make more and more batches. Each batch takes about 2-4 days to complete, so typically within a week I am able to bottle up several bottles of kefir water to consume, in just a few more days, I’ll double what I have been able to bottle from the first batch.

Short version:

Buy or otherwise acquire some kefir grains, it takes approximately a week to grow your own healthy, fizzy kefir soda, it’s good for you, it tastes good too. The process is incredibly simple and relatively short, you don’t need to invest in a lot of equipment, you probably already have what you need, or can get it easily. 


Fresh kefir grains instructions

  • Large glass container, 1 quart or larger, wide mouth preferred
  • Non metal strainer and stirring utensils
  • Coffee filters or cheesecloth or other clean breathable cloth to cover the lid
  • Rubber bands to hold it in place
  • 1 qt water, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar (white, brown, raw.. No honey!)
  • 1/4 cup kefir grains
  • Optional
  • 1 t unsulphured molasses
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 pinch baking soda
Dissolve sugar and any optional ingredients in water, it doesn’t have to be completely dissolved. Pour into your glass jar, make sure it’s at room temperature, cold is OK but hot will kill your kefir. Add the kefir to the water. Cover with a coffee filter (or other clean cloth) secure with a rubber band.
Note the date (I write it on the side of my jar) and place wherever you want as long as it’s room temperature, you can cover the jar with a towel if you want, kefir work best in the dark.
The warmer it is, the faster the kefir work, in summer it could be completed in 24 hours, in cooler temps it could take 3-4 days. Taste your kefir water after 24 hours, when it’s complete it will have a yeasty, almost vinegar smell and taste, it should be very slightly sweet. If it’s still very sweet, let it go another day, up to 4 days. If it’s not sweet at all, you are at risk of starving your kefir, don’t let it go too long.
Gather some glass bottles with good lids, make sure these will withstand carbonation pressures. Strain out your kefir grains, pouring the kefir water into a container that is easy to pour (a large glass or plastic measuring cup with a spout). Pour your fermented kefir water into the bottles leaving enough space to add 1/4 the volume of fruit juice and/or fruit AND still leave a couple of inches of head space in the bottle.
Cap tightly and let sit at room temperature for a day, up to three days. The warmer the air, the faster the ferment. You will start to see bubbles on top, that is a good thing. The longer you let it sit at room temperature, the fizzier it will get. Don’t let it go too long without checking and burping the bottle, it can explode if too much pressure builds up.
You can use pretty much anything to flavor your kefir water, fruit (fresh, frozen or dried-unsulphured), fruit juice, ginger… If you want the end product to be a bit sweeter, you can add a pinch of sugar to the second ferment, it will ferment a little faster with the extra sugar. Also, the longer you ferment at room temperature, the more sour and fizzy it will get.
Once it’s at the flavor profile you want, place the bottles in the fridge and enjoy as you wish.
As soon as you empty the kefir water from the first ferment, you can immediately start another batch. It’s recommended to keep back a little of the first fermented water to act as a starter. Merely repeat the directions for the first ferment.
Chances are your kefir grains will have grown and multiplied, if they haven’t multiplied too much you can keep the all together in your original jar to do the next batch, understand that with more kefir grains, the batch will ferment faster. You can also divide your kefir grains and either start another jar, or you can sell or gift your extra kefir grains.
You can also store your kefir grains in the fridge for up to a week if you need to, or you can dehydrate your kefir grains to use later. There are two different dehydration methods, both require you to rinse your kefir grains until they are translucent, you can spread them on a non-metal surface in a single layer and place in a very dry spot to dehydrate on their own
You can use a dehydrator set on a super low temperature (too hot and you’ll kill the kefir). Once dry you can store them in a jar until you are ready to use again. It will take a couple of times to fully activate your kefir grains from dry, just follow the first ferment steps above using a couple of tablespoons of the dried kefir.
You can add any extra kefir grains (fresh) to a smoothie, feed them to your pets, chickens, ducks, livestock, you can even put them in a compost pile.
Some like to add a few raisins to the first ferment, I personally prefer to go simple with my kefir grains, I don’t want to risk contaminating them with anything that might be detrimental. If you want to experiment, wait until you have some extra kefir grains, then if you lose a batch, it’s not your entire batch if kefir grains.
Remember, these are a living thing, they need to be fed and kept warm to survive and thrive. Keep your jars, bottles and anything else that touches the kefir grains and water clean. Don’t use anything that could harm your kefir, metal, chlorine and fluoride in your water is not good, honey has antimicrobial properties that can harm kefir, never use artificial sweeteners, your kefir needs real sugar. Make sure any dried fruit does not contain sulfur additives. Too much heat will also kill your kefir.
Bottom line, the measurements above are appropriations, not exact, don’t worry, have fun, enjoy your tasty healthy science experiment.
You can get fresh kefir grains from me if you are local to me and I have some to spare, or you can order them where I got mine https://amzn.to/3s4Wds7
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